Changing times, however, have put the formula into question. True, Walmart recently raised its dividend for the 42nd consecutive year, and overall it returned $7.2bn to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks in the fiscal year that ended on January 31. But the company's sales have been sluggish in recent quarters, slowed further by currency headwinds from the stronger dollar. Same-store sales in the United States have been flat. The company recently lowered its growth forecast for the current fiscal year to 1 percent to 2 percent, and Wall Street has been grumbling.
Meanwhile, Amazon, the quintessential online retailer, reported a 19.5 percent increase in net sales for 2014. Clearly, the future of growth in retail lies in e-commerce.
But if any company isn't content to sit on its hands, it's Walmart.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.